"GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS"
In 1923 Thomas Chisholm sent this hymn to his coworker, William M. Runyan, who set it to music. In 1954 Runyan recalled, "I wrote harmonies to some 20 or 25 of [Chisholm's] poems. This particular poem held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carry over its message in a worthy way."
Thomas Obediah Chisholm was born near Franklin, Kentucky, July 29, 1866. After only an eighth-grade education in a small country school, he became the teacher himself at age 16! At 21 he was associate editor of his hometown's paper, the Franklin Favorite. After his conversion in a revival meeting conducted by H. C. Morrison, Chisholm accepted the preacher's invitation to move to Louisville and become office editor and business manager of his paper, the Pentecostal Herald. He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1903, but because of ill health, he was able to serve as pastor for only one year. After five years on a farm near Winona Lake, Indiana, he became a life insurance agent there, and continued that work in Vineland, New Jersey, until retirement in 1953.
Of the more than 1,200 poems he wrote, some 800 were published, and a number were set to music by a dozen of the best-known gospel song composers of that time. Fanny Crosby took a great interest in his early writing and did much to encourage him. He said of his work, "I have sought to be true to the Word, and to avoid flippant and catchy titles and treatment. I have greatly desired that each hymn or poem might have some definite message to the hearts for whom it was written." Another lyric by Chisholm that has had wide usage is "Living for Jesus a life that is true." He died at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, February 29, 1960.
William Marion Runyan was born January 21, 1870, at Marion, New York, the son of a Methodist minister. As a youth he showed musical talent, playing the organ for church at age 12. Ordained a Methodist minister at age 21, he served several pastorates in Kansas for 12 years before his appointment as evangelist for the Central Kansas Methodist Conference in 1903. After 20 years in this work, he was forced by increasing deafness to take up other duties, and became associated with John Brown University, Sulphur Springs, Arkansas. He pastored the Federated Church and edited the Christian Worker Magazine from 1923 to 1925. Until his retirement in 1948, he did some work for Moody Bible Institute and served as an editor for Hope Publishing Company. Wheaton College conferred on him the honorary Litt.D. in 1948. Death came at Pittsburgh, Kansas, on July 29, 1957.
The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, published in 1985, was the first Adventist hymnal to include this hymn.
--Adapted from Wayne Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, pp. 150-151.